Entries Tagged as 'Arizona Fall League'

Grant Desme becoming a man of the cloth

desmeOakland A’s prospect Grant Desme is going from Arizona Fall League MVP  to the next Billy Sunday. He’s giving up the church of baseball for the priesthood.

Desme had a breakout year in 2009.  Playing for the Midwest League’s Kane County Cougars and California League’s Stockton Ports, he hit 31 homeruns, stole 40 bases to go along with his .288 batting average.

Last fall, the A’s had good words to say about Desme potential:

“If he keeps putting up these kinds of numbers, it’d be hard not to bring him in [to Spring Training],” Keith Lieppman, A’s director of player development, told MLB.com in October. “There’s a lot of good things happening with him right now. At this stage, he looks like the complete package.”

Now A’s GM Billy Beane has nothing to do but to accept the inevitable.  “We respect Grant’s decision and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors,” he grumbled.

According to the Huffington Post, Desme is quoted in 2007 as saying, “above all, my faith comes first and I dedicate myself to church.”  Now, we’re seeing just how dedicated he really is.  Desme will plan to enter a Catholic seminary and and says it will be a 10-year process and likens it to  “re-entering the minor leagues.”

Oakland can tell themselves that they probably get along without Grant Desme (the California League is a hitters league, right?).  Most likely, Desme would have been trade bait anyway.

Regardless, he would have been a player to watch.  It wasn’t an easy decision for Desme to make, I’m sure.

Fall and Winter Ball dates to put on your calendar

For some baseball fans the season doesn’t end when the World Series is concluded.  Bus Leagues Baseball provides us the dates (via MLB’s Winter League page) for Fall and Winter League Baseball to put in your calendar. 

October 9 – Mexican Pacific League Opening Day
October 9 – Venezuelan Winter League Opening Day
October 13 – Arizona Fall League Opening Day
October 16 – Dominican Winter League Opening Day
November 7 – Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game
November 20 – Mexican Pacific League Second Half Begins
November 23 – Arizona Fall League Championship Game
December 13 – Dominican Winter League All-Star Game
December 21 – Dominican Winter League Regular Season Ends
December 30 – Mexican Pacific League Regular Season Ends
February 2 – Caribbean Series Begins
February 8 – Caribbean Series Ends

TBZ’s intrepid co-blogger, Teddy Ballgame, usually makes it down south to catch some Arizona Fall League action.  As a result, we get some pretty good coverage of the prospects down there.

Teddy, mark your calendar!


The White Sox packaged the extremely talented righthander Javier Vazquez and bullpen lefty Boone “They’re not saying Boone” Logan to the Braves for C-1B Tyler Flowers, SS Brent Lillibridge, 3B Jon Gilmore, and southpaw reliever Santos Rodriguez. Vazquez has a dynamite fastball, an explosive curveball, and very good control, yet he is two games below .500 in his career, despite the fact he has over 2,000 strikeouts. Down the stretch, when the White Sox needed him most, Ozzie Guillen & Vazquez, himself, lost confidence. This game is hard enough, but there is no way to succeed when you don’t believe in your stuff. That, in a nutshell, seems to Javier’s problem, not believing in his ability. It seemed, from my vantage point 34 rows behind home plate, Vazquez would be getting batters out, overpowering them, when all of a sudden he’d start trying to fool hitters, rather than just get them out. He’d get ahead 0-2, then nibble, rather than take advantage & put the hitter away. Still in this pitching starved era, this 32 year old will give you 33 starts & 200 innings, not bad, but he’ll drive you crazy, good luck Atlanta! Then there’s the case of Boone Logan, a herky jerky motion, from the leftside, couldn’t get my grandmother out in the second half of the season. In fact 97 year old granny was two for three, with a homer against Logan.

Now here’s what we got back, it was better than a half eaten bag of potato chips, so I’m happy. Tyler Flowers is a 6’4″ 245 pound righthanded hitting catcher/firstbaseman out of Georgia. Flowers played in High Class A ball for the Braves in 2008, where he hit 17 homers & 32 doubles, while hitting .288, with 98 bases on balls. But where Tyler really shined was the Arizona Fall League, where he was the home run leader with 12 home runs in only 20 games, with a batting average of .387. Atlanta drafted him in the 33rd round of the 2005 draft out of a junior college, then he was suspended fifty games for testing positive to taking performance enhancing drugs. A knee injury may limit him to a career at firstbase.

Brent Lillibridge was the Bucs shortstop of the future when he was drafted out of the University of Washington in the 4th round of the 2005 draft. In 2003 at the age of 19 Brent batted .388 with some pop at Washington. Even though he batted .220 with 90 strikeouts in 2008 with Richmond, it’s hard to think he’s washed up at the age of 24, in fact the Braves brought him to the majors for a cup of coffee, where he batted .200 in 80 at bats with the big league club. The book on Brent is that he’s a good fielder, with speed, who needs to re-find his stick.

Jon Gilmore is an interesting prospect, drafted by the Braves with the 33rd pick in the 2007 draft out of high school. This, 6’3″ 195 pound, 20 year old, thirdbaseman was born in Florida, but played his high school ball in Iowa City. 2008 was a split decision for Gilmore, as Jon batted .337 with 23 doubles in only 258 at bats in rookie ball, but then really struggled at Class A, hitting only .186.

Then there’s 20 year old lefty reliever Santos Rodriguez. It’s hard to get a read on Santos, as he’s only pitched two years of rookie ball. But in 2008 Rodriguez struckout 45 batters in 29 innings, with a nifty 2.79 ERA.

All in all, I like the deal. Sure we gave up a solid member of our rotation, but we got back value, and Vazquez had pitched on the Southside long enough, let the Braves enjoy him. Kenny Williams has been a genius and I’m not going to second guess him at this point.


Remember when I was in Arizona for the Arizona Fall League the beginning of November I was telling you about a couple of East Indian pitchers who were trying out for major league scouts in Tempe? Well, the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed both hurlers. A White Sox fan friend out west was telling me, although the righthander threw harder, he thought the lefthander had a better shot at the big league, both were all over the place during the tryout.

Let me refresh your memory, Barry Bonds agent held a Million Dollar Arm Contest in India, whereby the winner would receive $100,000, specialized instruction from pitching coach Tom House, and a tryout in front of major league scouts. Dinesh Patel (20 years old), the 5’11” righty, threw 91-92 MPH, while Rinku Singh (19 years old), the 6’2″ lefty, threw 89-90 MPH.

While these two youngsters do have a shot at becoming the first major leaguers from India, they already are the first Indians ever to sign a professional contract outside of India. Recently the Pirates also signed a switch-hitting South African SS Mpho Ngoepe.

With 1,129,866,154 people in India with a Bucco rooting interest, can Pittsburgh really be considered a small market ballclub?


The Phoenix Desert Dogs are howling after winning their fifth straight Arizona Fall League Title. In 2008 the five teams that made up the Desert Dogs were the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Colorado Rockies, the Minnesota Twins, the Oakland Athletics, and the Toronto Blue Jays. Each year there new players on each team of the AFL, which makes Phoenix’ five year run even more amazing.

The Mesa Solar Sox took on the Phoenix Desert Dogs on November 22nd in Phoenix. Atlanta Braves Tommy Hanson handcuffed the Desert Dogs, allowing only one run, over the first five innings, leaving the game with a 3-1 Mesa lead. Two of those Solar Sox runs came off the bat of Jeff Larish who ripped a two run 4th inning blast off Phoenix starter Minnesota Twins (Golden Domer) Jeff Manship.

The Desert Dogs batters went to work once Hanson was removed from the game, scoring nine runs in two innings, overcoming a three run deficit, cruising to a 10-4 win. Big Josh Donaldson of the Oakland A’s provided much of the offense, driving in four, three on a 7th inning big fly. Another offensive hero was Edwardsville’s own, Arizona Diamondback, Evan Frey, who drove in three.

Congrats to the Phoenix Desert Dogs!


I’m back in Chicago, but Joe (who went with me to the all the games in Arizona) was in the Phoenix house last night. Joe had gotten a free ticket to see the Saguaros battle the Desert Dogs in Phoenix. He gave me a report on the game, including a couple of members of the White Sox. One up, Gordon Beckham, who seems to be finding a home at secondbase, while batting .396. He was three for four last night, including his 5th double of the Fall. Beckham could be the starting secondbaseman for the White Sox in 2009, with Alexei Ramirez moving to SS, and fellow countryman Dayan Viciedo over at 3B. One down, Aaron Poreda, of the University of San Francisco, didn’t make out too well, three earned runs, walking three & surrendering a solo bomb off the bat of Mike McKenry (his 9th) in 2/3 innings of work. The 6’6″ lefthander now has a 7.71 ERA.

Joe picked up a free ticket for Saturday, look forward to his next report.

11/6/08 (night) Phoenix @ Mesa

Without a day/night AFL doubleheader and it not being Monday, it was time to get the best pizza in the world at Pizzeria Bianco in downtown Phoenix. If you haven’t noticed from past postings, I love food! Joe & I arrived at Pizzeria Bianco, forty minutes before they opened 4:20 PM, and there were 43 people waiting to be seated. How do I know there were exactly 43 people waiting? Because we were the last two people seated in the initial seating, otherwise there would have been a two hour wait, which would’ve been bad as the night game started 1/2 hour away in Mesa at 7:05. The crust is light & airy, the ingredients are so fresh, and the pizza is even better than I had remembered. I had a pistachios pizza and Joe had a pizza with cheese, red sauce, & fresh basil leaves. We shared both and there wasn’t a crumb left after we were finished eating. I had to tell the owner, Chris (who makes all the pizzas), that no matter how good I remember his pizza being, it always exceeds my wildest expectations. Also we had Dave, my favorite server in the world, he always remembers us, and thanks us for coming in. Everyone is so excited with anticipation from first timers to repeaters, talked with the people sitting next (Jeanne & Rick) to us at the ballpark, they agree, it’s the BEST! My favorite place to eat, period. If you’re in Phoenix, this place is located in the Heritage Center off of 7th & Washington, and is a must!

After the game we zoomed over to Mesa, with some on-the-fly directions from DonS’ little brother Kevin (cellphones are wonderful), we walked into the ballpark as the National Anthem was being played. Tommy Hanson of the Braves was on the mound for the Solar Sox, while Chaz Roe of the Colorado Rockies was on the hill for the Desert Dogs. This was the meeting between the two guys charting the game one day earlier. But before settling in behind home plate, I needed to stop by to say hi to my friend Marteese Robinson. I’ve met the nicest people!

Tommy Hanson lived up to advance billing, striking out 11 guys in five innings, walking one, allowing two hits, and one run (on a Sean Doolittle OAK home run). This 6’6″ righty out of Riverside CC & Tulsa, OK has really impressed, despite being a 22nd round draft choice by the Atlanta Braves. Hanson has worked 18 2/3 innings, striking out 30, while allowing only one run, with an unreal 0.48 ERA, and a 3-0 record. Chaz Roe matched Hanson, by tossing four shutout innings, before being lifted. This was Roe’s best performance of his AFL, it lowered his ERA to a lofty 9.33. Chaz struckout seven and allowed only one hit.

Eric Young, Jr. got a pair of singles, but it was a rough night for him as he was picked off by the catcher & nailed when he rounded first base a little too far. Sean Doolittle touched Hanson for his first run allowed of the AFL and then sparkled when he shifted to first base. Twins (Phoenix) SS Steve Tolleson got a big two run triple after striking out his first three times up and then scored, accounting for three Desert Dog runs in the 8th.

Tigers slugger Jeff Larish, a local kid, slammed a big fly for Mesa and Matt Young of the Braves was 2 for 2 with two walks, & a stolen base. Logan Morrison was two for three with a walk, raising his batting average to .457.

Went back to the Quality Inn on Scottsdale Road in Tempe, AZ. I didn’t realize I’d stayed at this place for spring training, I don’t think I’ll be back. But I will be back to watch more AFL action next year, the best secret in town, but before that comes spring training, whether it’s in Florida or Arizona, it’s always a treat!

11/05/08 (night) Saguaros @ Scorpions

Jimmy Rollins & Eric Wedge joined previous AFL HOF inductees Garret Anderson, Dusty Baker, Jermaine Dye, Terry Francona, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Giambi, Shawn Green, Roy Halladay, Todd Helton, Torii Hunter, Derek Jeter, Derrek Lee, Grady Little, Ken Macha, Jerry Manuel, Tony Pena, Troy Percival, Mike Piazza, Albert Pujols, Mike Scioscia, and Alfonso Soriano. Better than that though, was the fact Rollins was on hand for the ceremony. I’m sure he had no idea when he accepted the invitation to be on hand, it’d be less than one month after the Phillies won the World Series. How many players would have stuck to their commitment and showed up at a minor league ballpark in the middle of the desert? Carlos Ruiz, the Phillies catcher, was in the stands to see his teammate recognized. Roland Hemond presented Jimmy with the award. It was also the day the NL announced their 2008 Gold Glove Award winners, Rollins was the SS for the 2nd straight year. He gave a little pep talk to the two teams playing that night, saying, always give your best, you never know who’s watching. Larry Bowa named Rollins starting shortstop for Philadelphia based on his 2002 AFL performance.

The 6’3″ lefthanded hitting catcher out of the White Sox system, Cole Armstrong hit a two run big fly to right for the Saguaros. The person making out the lineup sheets misspelled Gordon Beckham’s name as Beekham. The PA announcer followed suit, of course several of Gordon’s teammates started chirping, “Go get em Beekham!” Beckham singled & doubled in four at bats. He also went up the ladder to snag a line drive from his secondbase spot. The PA announcer also called Jordan Danks, John, to which Jordan banged his bat on the plate (brother John is a pitcher for the White Sox). There were other players besides members of the White Sox out there for Peoria, but none that distinguished themselves in this game.

SF SS Kevin Frandsen & LAA LF Chris Pettit each had two hits for Scottsdale. While Mark Ori, from the Astros, hit a home run, deep in the night, to right. Ori, out of Chicago, just looks like a ballplayer. Tampa native Sergio Perez even his record at one, working five innings, allowing three hits, one run, walking two, while striking out three, to pick up the victory for the Scorpions.

It was nice once again to visit with the Scorps manager Shane Turner’s wife, Beth. Beth ate some Italian food at a place within walking distance of the park and showed up after the Rollins hoopla. She is such a nice lady, it’s a shame she was heading back to the Reading area in the morning. She was telling of a recent class reunion where several baseball players showed up, it seems though several Reading classmates hooked ballplayers, calling it the Reading Web.

11/05/08 (day) MESA @ PHOENIX

I took a taxi from my hotel to the ballpark in Phoenix and go there before the gates officially opened to the public. But being the unofficial kind of guy I am, I walked through an open gate, picked up a program, and was the first fan in the stands. Later I went back, bought a ticket, re-entered, and paid for the program.

It was great being in an empty ballpark, with the Mesa Solar Sox taking BP on the field. A young firstbaseman/outfielder with the Florida Marlins, Logan Morrison, caught my eye. This big lefthanded batter, who was a 22nd round draft choice, was really ripping them! The balls were exploding off his bat, some of them staying in the ballpark. Ray Burris was serving up BP, maybe that’s why this kid was on fire. I kid Ray Burris. I felt inspired to call The Baseball Zealot himself, to share this wonderful moment with him.

A few minutes later I ran into one of my favorite people in the baseball world, Marteese Robinson. Marteese played college ball with John Valentin, Mo Vaughn, & Craig Biggio, and Robinson was the best hitter in the lineup. Marteese is now a scout for the Washington Nationals, he was with the Cardinals the last time I saw him, but that was before Walt Jocketty was shown the door. Robinson is always in a good mood, with time to talk, even on no sleep, having arrived in the desert, with no sleep, from DC, late the night before. The sunglasses hid eyes that were woken up by his ringing cell, way too early, as friends wanted to discuss the election results. Marteese, like me, supported Obama, and was excited about the future of our country. He said several people, from outside the USA, had called to let him know how pleased they were that Barrack had won.

I told Marteese, I liked Morrison’s bat, but Robinson said, that might be as good as he gets. Still, besides a quick bat, I saw a young man, who listened to his hitting coach after his BP session. I’m eager to see this kid’s ceiling! Logan was leading the AFL in batting average, with power. In his second at bat in the game, he bombed a three run shot, high & deep over the rightfield wall. He got three hits on the day.

Other Solar Sox players who impressed were Detroit Tigers 5’9″ 155 pound, secondbaseman Will Rhymes. Lefty batting Rhymes, Mesa’s leadoff man, was smoking line drives all over the place, must’ve served up 12 foul ball souvenirs on the day. He got three base knocks on the day and started a nifty glove-to-glove 4-6-3 doubleplay on a sharp grounder up the middle. Then there was the big Chicago Cubs righthander Jesse Estrada. The 6’8″ 280 pound El Paso native threw five innings, spreading out five hits, walking one, while striking out three.

Eric Young, Jr. impressed again as the leadoff hitter for the Desert Dogs. The little 5’9″ Colorado Rockies outfielder walked, stole a base (without even a throw), and lined an RBI single. Toronto Blue Jays catching prospect J.P. Arencibia impressed behind the dish.

Two bigtime pitching prospects, Tommy Hanson & Chaz Roe were charting this game for their respective teams. What a show they’d put on, but that’s a story for another day.


Pitchers Singh & Patel, one’s a lefty, one’s a righty, don’t ask me which one is which, got their chance yesterday to throw in front of major league scouts at Dr. Kowcher’s.  Even though I’m staying in Tempe, I couldn’t make it over to see the historic event, mainly because I couldn’t get the necessary information in time, due to the internet being unavailable at my hotel.

I did talk with a fellow White Sox fan, whom I’d befriended at last night’s game in Mesa.  He told me, Tom House was on hand, explaining how he’d been working with the two hurlers, perfecting their techniques.  The first time one of the youngsters faced live batters against a local college, he plunked the first two batters he faced, a case of the jitters.

I wonder how other phenoms from the USA would make out in similar circumstances, in a foreign country, playing an unfamiliar game, and with their entire futures riding on their tryout.  Here’s what happened yesterday, the tall lefty threw 87 mph, and showed some promise.  While the stockier righthander hit 91 mph, but looked to have a much lower ceiling.  Both guys were all over the place with their control.

It’ll be interesting what happens in the lives and baseball careers of these two young men from India.  I wish them well!  Baseball truly is an international game, despite what the Olympics might think.